Inspector amended notes after
Listeriosis deaths: Documents
Sarah Schmidt, Canwest News Service
A government food
inspector stationed at the Maple Leaf plant that produced contaminated meat
last year amended some of his records at the height of the media coverage
on the outbreak to minimize concerns and highlight there was "no food
safety risk," say internal documents.
Hundreds of inspection
worksheets from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency released under Access
to Information show that, overall, the company met an acceptable level of
compliance -- the monitoring and verification records related to
pre-operational sanitation were complete, even though some "deviations
were identified, food safety was assessed and corrective actions were
initiated" in some instances.
The documents also show
the CFIA inspector added hand-written notes to select verification
worksheets on Aug. 26, 2008 -- after the death toll from the listeriosis
outbreak linked to the Toronto plant had risen to 12 confirmed cases and
while the outbreak was dominating the news.
The CFIA was not
available on Monday to comment on why the amendments were made, including
one pertaining to how plant staff cleaned slicing equipment.
After the August
outbreak, which resulted in the death of 21 Canadians, the company
determined listeria bacteria found deep inside two meat slicers at the
Toronto plant was likely the cause of the contamination. The company
discovered the accumulation after the machines were fully dismantled, a
step beyond the equipment's normal cleaning procedures.
On Feb. 2, 2008, the
inspector compared Maple Leaf's sanitation manual and the operator's plan
for the sanitation of slicing equipment to company records from the
previous month. The inspector found that the "monitoring frequency . .
. is not always adhered to" and records for the previous month show
"only the clean up" of four production lines were recorded.
"The deviation was not
identified during the verification," the worksheet originally stated.
On Aug. 26, the inspector
added a handwritten note to the file, stating that after interviewing
company officials, "it was identified that all slicing equipment was
being sanitized in the operator's frequency. However, the operator was not
recording for all lines. As the lines were being cleaned, no food safety
risk was identified."
In another instance, the
inspector reviewed company paperwork and conducted an on-site review of
cleanup verification on March 13, 2008, as part of a prescribed task to
verify the sanitation practices at the plant.
Five months after the
incident, the inspector qualified that food had come into contact with the
water and the "production supervisor took immediate action when
advised," state the handwritten notes dated Aug. 26.